Tag Archives: Ryan Patch

The Truth Behind Screenwriting

This past weekend, after some confusion, Ryan hopped on New York’s good ol’ Chinatown bus to downtown Baltimore. We met him at the rendezvous point and proceeded to Millersville. After a night discussing love and loss with computer genius and “Sheol” supporter James Flowers, we followed East West Highway into Annapolis to begin outlining the feature version of “The Sheol Express”.

Now, most everyone probably looks at writing as a relatively simple process. Break out the notebook, the moleskine, the laptop, the napkin – whatever the case may be – tap into your inner-self, and apply Three Act Structure to whatever thoughts are floating around your head. But before even this, there are a number of absolutely essential, and yet all-too-often overlooked, steps that must be taken to pave the path for a successful screenplay:

Never underestimate the power of toiletry accessories! Or of the brain’s WD-40. All of which helped us work through forty-eight hours of brainstorming in my parents’ unheated guest room. Harnessing the awesomeness of Google Wave, we banged our way through a rough outline, only to realize that, thanks to the History of Araboth (link) we wrote eons ago, “Sheol” – in its heart – wants to be a trilogy. That’s right, folks. We kicked the idea around for a while, and in an inspired frenzy of creative tag-teaming, pieced together a seven-hour epic about The Third War. Owen’s reluctant rise to leadership of the Old Regime, Rachael’s fanatical alliance with a banished warlord, and Diggory’s conniving black market empire meet on the battlefield of Araboth’s fall from grace.

We then watched  the documentary “Official Rejection“, which is single-handedly responsible for eliminating our scotch whiskey reserves and reigning our dreams back into a self-contained feature… at least, for now. It’s a bad idea to go into the festival circuit with just an overly-ambitious adaptation, we decided, and after a few more hours spent revisiting the short’s themes – as well as some of the personal shit we’re both struggling with in our own lives – we came up with a workable outline for a 110-page screenplay.

It’s funny, really, to compare our notes plotting the short with our notes plotting the feature. While overlaps are evident, the new “extensions” afforded by our higher page-count are a joy. We’ll get to visit the Ivory Gate, a sort of Ellis Island, Owen’s point-of-entry into the much darker world of Sheol. We’ll explore the Bordertowns of Sheol’s less-than-civilized frontier. We’ll see Owen’s relationships mature and complicate, and we might even get to see what, exactly, lies in wait at the End of the Line. Simply put, “Sheol” has always wanted room to breathe, and now it’s getting it. These next few months will be a ride, folks, as we run with “Sheol” through post-production and into the preliminary stages of its first expansion. Stay tuned!

What Are “Pickups” Anyway?

Perhaps, you’re thinking, something to the effect of “a conversation opener with the intent of engaging an unfamiliar person for sex, romance, or dating”.

In fact, in film terms, they are shots that are filmed after principle photography that a) the director and editor decide they need after editing the film together, or b) can be filmed with a minimal cast/crew and production value.  They are very similar to second unit work.

The we went to Colorado was because we were given access to a RED camera by our generous friends over at 42 Productions in Boulder. Also, there’s nothing like having mom to cook for your crew, and to us New Yorkers access to a free car sealed the deal!

First: “ocean” plates on Lake Estes, by Estes Park, CO. Estes Park, ColoradoBy filming a lake that was heated by a power plant, we were able to shoot freshwater at 8,000′ of elevation that will become the Herman Sea in “The Sheol Express”. We had to position ourselves and the camera right in the face of 30mph winds to get the “whitecaps” moving the right direction, and let me tell you, it was coooold. This would be referred to as a “background” or “effects plate” – a piece of the image that will be used as a part or layer in the final shot.

Second, we did a few traditional “pickups” – detailed, small-scale inserts that will help us move the story along. We shot closeups of some of the “board-windows” along the train that will help us communicate the story of Sheol and Araboth better.

Lastly, we shot some atmospheric effects that will be used in the final effects shots to add texture. We shot a mixture of flower and powered sugar into the air, then shined a high-powered light through them to simulate dust particles. Shooting at 100fps we were able to give the impression that these particles were “hanging” in the air, with light rays passing through them.

Likewise, we constructed a homemade fog machine that vaporized baby oil (mineral oil) with compressed air, then pushed it out the top of a 5-gallon bucket.

Then, we used a homemade low-lying fog machine (using dry ice – frozen CO2 that sublimates into a gas that’s both more dense and cooler than the air, making it sink) to mimic the effects of a train releasing steam.

All of these will be seamlessly blended into and together with the other matte paintings that Perry and Bryce are working on. We’ve seen some great concepts from them, so stay tuned!


It’s happening right now, folks. As I write from the comfort of my home in America’s Sailing Capital, Ryan Patch, Jenn Durrett, and Perry Kroll of Studio Free Radical are braving Colorado’s mountains, traversing treacherous terrain in search of the perfect natural elements to photograph for our film’s atmospheric plates. Basically, they’re shooting things like water, smoke, and fog, all of which will add depth and texture to the onscreen world of Sheol. Wish them luck!